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Custody Conciliation Hearings

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If I File a Custody Complaint, Will I End Up in Court?

By Attorney Jeffrey B. Engle, Family Law Division Leader, Harrisburg, PA

Often times, I hear from a prospective client, either in my office or on the phone, that they are reluctant to file a complaint because "they don't want things to end up in court."  I have to explain to them that this is a myth and that the filing of a complaint in custody first places us into a "custody conciliation" if the parties cannot otherwise resolve the case through mutual agreement.

A conciliation conference is just what it sounds like.  It's a meeting among the opposing parties and their respective attorneys and a custody conciliation officer.  The conference is conducted by an attorney appointed by the court to act as a mediator or conciliator (one who facilitates) to engage the parties and attempt to resolve the dispute.  There is no judge, no jury, no stenographer taking down everything that is said.  It is a relatively "laid back" process to see if the parties can agree to something that suits them and the child(ren).

Only when the conciliation process breaks down, does the case end up on a track for court.  Usually then there may be some other stops along the way, such as a custody evaluation, possibly another conference and even a meeting with the judge before it all goes to court.  Children are never required to testify in court before the judge.  Rather, a court should interview them privately in chambers.  If you have questions, call Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us your questions.


My daughter was served papers today by her ex boyfriend for 50/50 custody. Their conciliation meeting is in mid August. Her daughter has always lived with her at our home. He is just now showing interest in taking his daughter to his home with his parents in the past weeks. She is 2 1/2 yrs old. Now that she has been served papers, she is afraid if he takes her before their meeting he will not give her back. His mother pushed the issue of child custody . Would it be held against her if she does not let him take her before their meeting? This is very upsetting to us all, but we knew it would be coming sooner or later. We don't want it to be any harder then it is. Thank you for your time.


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